It is now over a month since Aruba fell in the grip of the complete shutdown caused by novel worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Governments are struggling to find answers to this unprecedented situation.
To make matters worse the situation is fluid and officials seem to make it up as they go or copy best practices from other countries. COVID-19 doesn’t come with a manual, laments Aruba Prime Minister recently.
For scientific information, Aruba relies on data provided by the WHO, PAHO, and RIVM in the Netherlands. The local health department and a special Prime Minister’s team is in charge of the local response.
The workforce of Aruba, for the most part, is inactive. The ones who are actively working, do so based on limited hours with a limited crew. This is due to the distancing orders still in place as of writing.
According to the latest data soon Aruba will be Coronavirus-free. As a result, all businesses will reopen. However, this will have a limited impact on general economic activity. Only about 20% of Aruba’s workforce will be able to resume work. Despite the modest stimulus help by the local government, the devastation to the people is undeniable.
The limited impact is due to the fact that Aruba’s permanent population this year is just over 110.000 inhabitants. This island receives nearly 2 million visitors on a yearly basis.
Inbound flights will not resume for now, despite the optimism shown by the airport recently. Cruise ships are not expected either.
Our infrastructure, logistics, distribution channels, food supply, waste management, water, and power supply are built to handle two million people. Two million people that are not there and won’t be for a while.
To put it into perspective as an example, in Canada the tourism accounts for somewhere between 2 to 6% of the country’s economic activity (depending on the source), while Aruba’s economy relies on 98% on tourism (source: World Travel and Tourism Council).
One of the first major operators in tourism to go into bankruptcy procedures according to local reports is Excelsior Casino at Holiday Inn. In all fairness casinos across the board have been struggling. The crisis just exacerbates the situation.
Below I’m sharing a video by YouTuber Let’s go with Hyro who did a terrific walk on the boardwalk from Holiday Inn to Riu Antillas. The video features most hotels located on the beach at Palm Beach in Aruba. In this high-quality video and sound, you can see and hear how the beaches are eerily abandoned.
Despite the negative that COVID-19 brought upon the world, there are silver linings. Aruba has all but conquered Coronavirus locally. The measures taken seem to have helped.
People seem to be more aware of cleanliness, keeping their hands clean. The distancing measure also prevented other illnesses and viruses to propagate.
There are fewer people on the island, meaning that we are producing less waste. The consumption, in general, has fallen. This is not good for the economy but it is for the environment.
Our healthcare systems and workers are now in front of national debates. Now we understand a bit how vulnerable the systems are and how hard and hazardous the work of the healthcare professional is.
There is hope for the refinery in San Nicolas that something else may happen to it. CITGO Petroleum Aruba has officially handed over the facilities to Aruba-owned RDA. This means we can now move away from the refining business to something else. Expect CITGO service stations locally to change branding soon.
After many years of cutting in housekeeping budgets, hotels will know to double down on cleaning. There are reports about major international chains partnering up disinfectant companies.
Reportedly one such partnership in the works is between Hilton Hotels and Lysol, owned by UK’s Reckitt Benckiser. The companies are working on a cleaning certification. In the future when travelers are researching breakfast and wifi options, they will also seek a cleaning certification badge too.
There are many more positives that can be mentioned, but the fact is that this is the time for us locally to reinvent the island. What is the alternative?